Last Week's Heat Wave Killed A Bunch Of Avocado Trees :(
Do you remember how unbearably hot it was last week? Remember how the temperature cleared 110 degrees in many places around L.A., and pushed 120 out into the inland areas? Of course you remember. It was terrible, especially if you, like me, live in a west-facing apartment that lacks air conditioning.
But while I had the ability to flee to the coast where it was (marginally) cooler, the avocado groves of Temecula, De Luz and Fallbrook weren't so lucky. As the L.A. Times reports, last week's extreme heat did a number on several groves of avocado trees, along with other species of agricultural plants, growing throughout inland Southern California. Groves across the southland were sunburned badly, and now they have shriveled leaves and are dropping fruit.
For example, the Garcia Organic Farm in Fallbrook, which supplies avocados to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, lost five of its 29 avocado trees. Aside from the avocado trees, that farm lost nearly its entire crop of finger lime trees, as well as its entire Persian mulberry crop.
Polito Family Farms, just south of Temecula, also suffered. The farm's proprietor, Bob Polito, explained to the Times that much of what he'll be selling at the Santa Monica Farmers Market this week will include dropped avocados, called "seconds," which wouldn't ordinarily be sold.
For consumers, this basically means California grown avocados might be a bit under quality for the remainder of this season. At the same time, there's a growing avocado shortage because Mexican avocado growers had a less than ideal season as well. "There are not enough avocados in the industry right now to supply the demand," Heath Shoup, of the West Pak Avocado packing house, told the Times.
(Chart by Avi Crane via Fresh Fruit Portal)
More concerning are the potential effects the extreme heat could have on next year's crop of avocados. According to the California Avocado Commission, it takes 14 to 18 months to grow a single avocado, and 90 percent of the nation's avocado crop is grown right here in California—meaning that the effects of last week's heat wave could continue well into next year, at dinner tables across the country."We've been here for 25 years, and this has never happened before," Jeanne Davis of Coyote Growers told the Times. "There will probably be a minimal amount of avocados for next year because we think that some of the flowers didn't make it."
Avi Crane, the industry veteran responsible for developing the California Avocado Commission's avocado crop estimating program, issued dire predictions for next year, warning that California could produce a meager yield of 200,000,000 avocados in 2017, which would be a seven-year industry low for the state. Compare those numbers with the estimated total yield for 2016, which is predicted to come in at 400,000,000 avocados. The numbers are even more troubling when seen in the context of avocado consumption, which continues to outpace expectations, according to Crane. Crane reports that recent USDA rulings have cleared the way for more imported avocados from Peru and from the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacan, but with importation comes increased prices. Plus, we are awfully partial to our California avocados.
So, are we in for a guacamole apocalypse? Only time will tell.